Government must take action to support beef prices – Smith

beef cattle

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has again called on the Minister for Agriculture to implement measures to support the beef sector.

Deputy Smith commented, “There is an urgent need to have the Beef Market Taskforce meet as proposed last September and implement the measures agreed in the negotiations with beef sector stakeholders last August.  The Minister must progress these issues without further delay.

“For a considerable length of time farmers have been subjected to low prices for their livestock and this has caused serious financial problems for producers.  It is not acceptable that the primary producer is getting a price below the cost of production.  Farmers are very anxious that they should, at least, get the average EU price for their livestock.

“I have raised my concerns directly with Minister Creed in the Dáil and will continue to do so for beef farmers in Cavan-Monaghan and nationwide.

“The onus is on the Minister for Agriculture to show leadership and convene a meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce as soon as possible,” concluded Deputy Smith.

PQ49064 19 B Smith TD 

PQ271119 B Smith TD

 

Summer Works Scheme – Brendan Smith

See the source image

I welcome the announcement by the Department of Education and Skills of a number of approvals for upgrading works at schools under the Summer Works Scheme.

This Scheme enables essential small-scale building works to be carried out and the successful applications in Co. Cavan and Co. Monaghan are:

CAVAN

Kilnaleck National School

Bailieboro Model National School

Farnham National School

Billis National School

Darley National School

Killygarry National School

Scoil Bhride, Mountnugent

Kildallon National School

St Felim’s National School,  Cavan Town

Scoil Mhuire, Lacken

Scoil Naomh Padraig, Lisboduff

Drumkilly National School

Kill National School

CO MONAGHAN

Scoil Naomh Eanna

Corgreagh National School

Drumgossett NS

S N Blaithin Iosa

Scoil Mhuire BNS

St Patrick’s NS

SN Cholmcille

St Patrick’s National School, Killybrone

Scoil Bride

Edenmore NS

St Louis Secondary School

A number of other worthy applications from other schools throughout both counties were not successful and I appeal to the Minister to provide more funding for this Scheme, which gives good value for money, and have more applications approved.  A number of schools whose applications have not been successful need to have essential repairs and upgrading works undertaken.

Smith raises need for opening of Cavan Respite Centre

HSE

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has again raised the need for the opening of the Cavan Respite Centre with the Minister for Health.

Deputy Brendan Smith said, “I have repeatedly raised this with the Minister for Health and HSE directly. In their most recent reply I have been informed all documentation for the new proposed Respite Centre in Cavan has been submitted to HIQA.

 “Final confirmation is awaited from HIQA to enable the HSE to open this temporary Respite Centre and I hope that this approval will be forthcoming without further delay. Many families throughout Cavan and Monaghan are anxious that this facility should open at the earliest possible date due to pressure on places in other Centres.

 “Living with a son, daughter, parent or sibling with special needs is a 24/7 role. The provision of respite is absolutely vital to the carer for their own physical and mental health. Families are being abandoned by Fine Gael with inadequate resources being provided both for carers and respite and this is another disappointing, frustrating example,” concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.

PQ Cavan Respite Centre

MINISTER NEEDS TO APPROVE BUILDING PROJECT FOR ST. AIDAN’S COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL – BRENDAN SMITH TD

Cootehill.jpg

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD has appealed again to the Minister for Education and Skills to approve a long-standing building project application for St Aidan’s Comprehensive School, Cootehill.

“Minister McHugh in his reply to my Parliamentary Question in Dáil Éireann stated that the application is currently under assessment and that the school authorities will be contacted directly as soon as the assessment process is completed.

With an enrolment in excess of 500 students St Aidan’s needs a new PE Hall and an extension to the woodwork/construction room and proper canteen facilities.  The growth in the school enrolment over recent years has created additional pressure on the accommodation.  The Minister needs to prioritise this application for an early decision and have this additional and upgraded accommodation provided.

 As well as the school’s academic success there have also been great achievements in different sports at provincial and national level” stated Brendan Smith TD.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 20/11/2019
Question Number(s): 133 Question Reference(s): 48217/19
Department: Education and Skills
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if an application for the upgrading and provision of new facilities by a school (details supplied) will be progressed without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) the application for upgrading and provision of new facilities at St Aidan’s Comprehensive School, Cootehill, Co. Cavan

REPLY

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of an application, for additional school accommodation, from the school authority in question.

The application is currently under assessment. The school authorities will be contacted directly as soon as the assessment process is completed.

 

No definitive opening date for Bóthar Oirialla Group Home – Smith

HSE

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has expressed his disappointment that the HSE are unable to provide a definitive date for the opening of a residential centre, Bóthar Oirialla Group Home, in Carrickmacross.

Deputy Smith commented, “The HSE have informed me that Bóthar Oirialla Group Home in Carrickmacross will remain unopened for the foreseeable future.

“Cavan-Monaghan Disability Services have not been informed when funding will be made available to commence services at the house.

 “The Minister for Disabilities and his Department should provide the necessary funding to enable this much-needed facility, which has been finished for well over a year, to be opened and provide residential services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. It is farcical a new facility would sit idle. 

“Families are anxiously awaiting a definite date for this service to be provided. The onus is on the Minister to provide this to them,” concluded Deputy Smith.

PQ 19142 Brendan Smith TD

 

Uncertainty continues for business due to Brexit – Brendan Smith TD

brexit-3

With the British General Election Campaign underway we do not have the relentless coverage of BREXIT issues that we have been used to for most of three years.

However, the issues surrounding BREXIT still confront our country. There are particular challenges for our own border region and Government and Statutory Agencies must continue to put in place adequate supports for business to deal with all the potential adverse impacts of BREXIT.

Attached is a Report of Dáil questions I posed to Minister Humphreys in relation to the particular needs of the border region. These issues must continue to command the full attention of Government.

QUESTIONS TO JOBS, ENTERPRISE AND INNOVATION MINISTER

Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to introduce specific programmes to assist small and medium-sized enterprises in the Border region, which are heavily dependent on Britain as an export market, to deal with the adverse impacts of Brexit and help protect employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Brendan Smith

We have discussed previously the adverse impacts Brexit, be it no-deal or otherwise, will have on our particular economy in the Border region. As the Minister knows, our economy is interdependent with our neighbours in Northern Ireland. The sectors critically important to our local economy in Cavan and Monaghan are equally important in Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh.

I welcome the funding provided in the budget for a no-deal Brexit. As my colleague, Deputy Troy, said earlier, we want to know the details of how this will be shared between equity loans or grants. Will the Minister ensure the sectors most vulnerable to a no-deal Brexit are given particular attention and a specific scheme of grant aid?

Deputy Heather Humphreys

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 10 together.

Since 2016, my Department has worked with the enterprise development agencies, businesses and representative bodies to ensure we have the appropriate mix of supports for businesses to prepare and manage through whatever Brexit we may face over the coming period.

The most immediate consequences of a hard Brexit are likely to be currency movements, supply chain constraints, delays, duties and tariffs. In the first instance, this will put a strain on the working capital position of businesses. I am progressing legislation to increase the amount which Microfinance Ireland can lend from €25,000 up to €50,000, which increases support to any microenterprise employing ten workers or fewer. This is open to everyone from hairdressers to hauliers. This will support an additional 1,000 enterprises with short-term loans.

For higher working capital challenges, the €300 million Brexit loan scheme provides loans of up to €1.5 million at a rate of 4% or less and approval is valid for four months. I advise businesses to secure approval now to be ready for any scenario. The overdraft facility can be in place but will only be paid for when it is used.

For longer-term loan requirements, the future growth loan scheme is another €300 million for investment by SMEs, primary agriculture and seafood business. Both Government schemes are administered by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and delivered through the banks.

The joint Skillnet and Enterprise Ireland clear customs scheme was launched on 7 August to help customs agents, intermediaries and affected Irish businesses deal with additional customs requirements. This is a free customs training programme delivered nationwide by Skillnet, coupled with €3 million funding that I allocated to Enterprise Ireland for a support payment of up to €6,000 per employee to help with extra costs to manage customs compliance. Two weeks ago, I saw first-hand one of these courses in Cavan.

The large suite of supports available also include the Brexit scorecard, grant aid, consultancy, mentoring, advisory clinics, agile innovation fund, operational excellence offer and market discovery fund. These supports help companies consider various risks such as supply chain vulnerabilities and act to mitigate against them. All of these supports are critical for businesses in the highly vulnerable Border areas and for exporters who are heavily exposed to the UK market in sectors such as construction, engineering and food.

I recently collaborated with the accountancy bodies on four Brexit briefing events between July and September, covering several counties in the Border regions that are likely to be most impacted by Brexit. The events took place in July in Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal and in September in Louth with over 500 people in attendance. These Brexit events covered a broad range of important topics to help businesses prepare for Brexit such as supply chain, cashflow and accreditation. The events provided an opportunity for me to speak directly to companies impacted by Brexit in the Border region.

I acknowledge Deputy Brendan Smith’s work on Brexit as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence. I am from the Clones area and Deputy Brendan Smith’s home is not far from Belturbet, Bawnboy and Ballyconnell, towns which bore the brunt of the Troubles when a hard border was in place. We do not want to go back to those days. That is why everything the Government is doing is focused on ensuring we do not have a hard border on this island. In recent months, Deputy Brendan Smith has brought delegations and parliamentarians to the Border region to highlight the impact Brexit would have.

It is important to acknowledge that the joined-up approach to Brexit we have seen to date in this Parliament is in stark contrast to what we have seen at Westminster.

Deputy Brendan Smith

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to ensure smaller enterprises will receive support. It is very important that these enterprises have the capacity and capability to draw down whatever support is necessary. When programmes of assistance are available, often it is the most needy who are not in a position to draw down that support. It is extremely important that we address that issue.

In the context of Mr. Johnson’s proposals, Manufacturing Northern Ireland made the point recently that 99% of manufacturing businesses in Northern Ireland were small and medium enterprises. Only 1% of manufacturing businesses in Northern Ireland are large. As the economy of the Border counties is similar, it is extremely important that assistance be targeted at small and medium enterprises.

I mentioned, as did the Minister, the importance of the agrifood sector, the construction products sector, engineering and tourism to the Border economy. The economies are inter-dependent. The message must be got across both to the Northern Ireland and British authorities and within the agencies in this state that we need businesses, North and South, working together. The companies in Clones or Ballyconnell that export to Fermanagh, Tyrone or Armagh do not regard it as an export but as local trade. We have to factor in to all decision-making the inter-dependence of the economies, North and South.

Deputy Heather Humphreys

The Deputy is absolutely right. Nobody knows better than he and I do the links between businesses north and south of the Border. That is the reason I allocated additional funding in budget 2019 to InterTradeIreland, which has planning vouchers worth up to €2,250 of which companies can avail easily to help them to employ somebody to identify and mitigate the risks presented by Brexit. As part of the €110 million Brexit package announcement yesterday, a further €2 million will be allocated to InterTradeIreland because the Deputy and I both know that people losing their jobs north of the Border can mean people losing theirs south of the Border and vice versa. That is the reason we need joined-up thinking and InterTradeIreland has been doing great work. Even though there is no Executive in Northern Ireland – matching funding is normally provided – once again we stepped up to the mark and are providing InterTradeIreland with the additional funding it will need to ensure all support possible will be given to businesses in the Border region because I know that we are very exposed owing to our geographical location close to the Border with Northern Ireland.

Deputy Brendan Smith

I thank the Minister. The absence of the Assembly and the Executive in Northern Ireland is deplorable at this time when the North-South Ministerial Council should be meeting and preparing an all-Ireland approach to Brexit. Unfortunately, that is the position. Can the Minister give the House an assurance that there is good and active co-operation between the authorities here and Northern Ireland Departments and agencies? I am sure business people from Fermanagh and Tyrone speak to the Minister, as they do to me, about their concerns regarding a non-functioning Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland. They are anxious that there be the utmost co-operation between the authorities here and in Northern Ireland to ensure the concerns of businesses, North and South, will be addressed and that the inter-dependence of businesses will be kept on the agenda at all times.

Deputy Heather Humphreys

The Deputy is absolutely right. There is contact at official level between my Department and officials in the Department in Northern Ireland on the question of how we can co-operate. We want to make sure we can assist in every way possible because Brexit will throw up many challenges. Obviously, there is co-operation on a governmental basis also. The Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, visits the North on a regular basis. I take any opportunity I get to travel to the North, as I know the Deputy does also. I have spoken on a number of occasions to the Confederation of British Industry and outlined what we are doing here. On one of those occasions it told me that it was very pleased to hear what was happening here because it is looking to the Dublin Government to find out the next steps to be taken. Brexit will be catastrophic for businesses in Northern Ireland if they cannot have their goods exported south of the Border without tariffs and checks. We want the position to remain as it is. It is so important that the free movement of people and goods continue. In terms of the agreement, the common travel area is protected. It is important that people know that they can travel seamlessly across the Border.

 

Unacceptable delays in assessments and follow-up treatment for children with additional needs in Cavan/Monaghan – Brendan Smith TD

Action needed 

Dáil Éireann Debate

Thursday, 14th November 2019

Progressing Children’s Disability Services: Statements

Deputy Brendan Smith 

I appreciate that the Minister of State has taken the opportunity on a number of occasions to meet groups and individuals on my request. Nevertheless, there is a large backlog of assessments of need and follow-up treatment in Cavan-Monaghan. Recently, two additional occupational therapy and physiotherapy posts were appointed for Cavan-Monaghan and both therapists have commenced their employment, which I welcome, but we want to examine the background of the large backlog and delays in providing necessary assessments and follow-up treatment for children. It was only at the beginning of November that the assessments of need commenced for Cavan-Monaghan. 

Currently, the wait for access to assessments and treatment by the child development team in Cavan-Monaghan, from the date of referral for occupational therapy and physiotherapy, is four years and six months. The figure for speech and language therapy is ten months, while in the case of psychology, treatment is provided only for children and young people in crisis, due to the increasing demands and complexity of the current caseload. That is the up-to-date position as of the end of last month, according to the HSE. It is clear the service is in crisis and additional resources, therapists and clinicians are needed to provide even a modest level of service to children and families in desperate need of securing necessary supports for their children. 

We in County Cavan are fortunate to have an Enable Ireland service that covers the Cavan-Monaghan area. Some 275 children access Enable Ireland services in counties Cavan and Monaghan, while a further 162 children wait to be assessed. The figures paint a stark picture of the need for a massive improvement in the delivery of assessments and follow-up treatment, if needed. I have brought the Minister of State to meet groups. He visited the area and we appreciate his personal commitment, but we need promises to be honoured, resources delivered and clinicians put in place because far too many families are desperate due to the lack of services provided for their children. In recent weeks, a number of families have contacted me to say that even though they cannot afford to do so, they are sourcing private services. It is unfair in the first instance that the children who need treatment do not get it, and it is further unfair that families have the additional burden of trying to source private assessments and follow-up treatment because the State fails to deliver it. 

There is an urgent need to improve dramatically the services currently available in my constituency and I recognise there are problems elsewhere throughout the country.

Questions still to be answered into the death of Shane O’Farrell – Smith

cropped-Shane-OFarrell_Logo-Lock-up-01-2

-Minister should adopt the terms of reference as drafted by Judge Haughton-

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, says the Minister for Justice should adopt the terms of reference, as drafted by Judge Haughton, to ensure an adequate investigation and proper inquiry is carried out into the death of Shane O’Farrell.

Deputy Smith made his comments as a Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion brought this matter to the Dáil chamber.

He commented, “My sincere sympathy as always goes to the O’Farrell family on the tragic loss of Shane, their son and brother.  Shane’s passing is an immeasurable loss to his beloved family.  As well as being a much loved son and brother, Shane was a highly respected member of his local community. 

 “It is so important that there is an adequate investigation and proper inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell. The O’Farrell family has been failed by this State and that failure continues today.

“Every right-thinking person wants justice to be done.  The terms of reference are essential to get to the truth.  It is truly shocking that it has taken so long to get to the truth in regard to the death of a 23 year old cyclist in a hit-and-run accident quite close to his own home.

“The terms of reference as drafted by Judge Haughton should be adopted.  The terms of reference as they currently stand do not reflect the spirit of the earlier Dáil vote.  Those terms of reference would not enable this State to get the full facts in regard to the dysfunctionality of some elements of our criminal justice system.

“Curtailing the terms of reference is not acceptable.  The scoping exercise process should not be undermined, which is what our party motion seeks to prevent.

“As we know, the driver who caused Shane’s death would not have been at liberty if the criminal justice system had been functioning properly.  That is the sad summation of the entire tragedy surrounding Shane’s loss of life,” concluded Deputy Smith.

Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion

Our Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion has just been passed in Dáil Éireann calling on the Government to ratify the terms of reference as drafted by Judge Haughton in relation to the investigation/inquiry in to the death of Shane O’Farrell.

MY CONTRIBUTION

Our party spokesperson, Deputy Jim O’Callaghan, outlined very clearly again this evening the absolute need to have an adequate investigation and proper inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell. The motion before this House merits the approval of Dáil Éireann. I take this opportunity to convey again my sincere sympathy to the O’Farrell family on the tragic loss of Shane, their son and brother. Shane’s passing is an immeasurable loss to his beloved family. As well as being a much loved son and brother, Shane was a highly respected member of his local community. I know very well that the community in the wider Carrickmacross area, south Monaghan and adjoining counties hold the O’Farrell family in the highest esteem. It is also a source of great regret in south Monaghan and adjoining areas that a young man of Shane’s standing and outstanding ability lost his life in such awful and preventable circumstances.

Unfortunately, the O’Farrell family has been failed by this State and that failure continues today. I was glad to be able to contribute to the previous Fianna Fáil Private Members’ motion on this issue of such importance, not just to the O’Farrell family but to all of us who want to see our criminal justice system do justice to every family and individual in our State. Every right-thinking person wants justice to be done. The terms of reference, as outlined so coherently by Deputy O’Callaghan, are essential to get to the truth. It is truly shocking that it has taken so long to get to the truth in regard to the death of a 23 year old cyclist in a hit-and-run accident quite close to his own home.

Deputies Jim O’Callaghan and Niall Collins, and other Members of the House, spoke earlier of the great dignity of the O’Farrell family in their campaign for justice for their son, Shane. I have heard Shane’s mother, Lucia, speak on national radio and on our local radio in Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath. She has always spoken so eloquently and with such dignity of the awful tragedy that has beset that family and of their quest for the truth. That campaign has been courageous and tenacious, and has commanded the attention, interest, sympathy and empathy of people throughout all of our island.

In the previous Private Members’ motion, we spoke about the need for proper cross-Border policing strategies and the appropriate sharing of information between the criminal justice systems, North and South. None of us wants to see tragedies in the future arising from the dysfunctionality of systems. It is deplorable that such a series of incidents were permitted, causing the death of such a fine young man, son and brother. It is essential, as outlined so eloquently and in detail by Deputies O’Callaghan and Collins, that the terms of reference as drafted by Judge Haughton should be adopted. The terms of reference as they currently stand do not reflect the spirit of the earlier Dáil vote. Those terms of reference would not enable this State to get the full facts in regard to the dysfunctionality of some elements of our criminal justice system.

The work of the O’Farrell family has been tireless in seeking justice for Shane. The State investigation into Shane’s death has failed the family, and it is similar with the prosecution and also the handling of the family’s complaints. This failure will continue if these terms of reference are limited. Curtailing the terms of reference is not acceptable. The scoping exercise process should not be undermined, which is what our motion seeks to prevent.

As we know, the driver who caused Shane’s death would not have been at liberty if the criminal justice system had been functioning properly. That is the sad summation of the entire tragedy surrounding Shane’s loss of life.

I take the opportunity to again commend the O’Farrell family on the great dignity, perseverance and tenacity they have shown in seeking justice and the whole truth regarding the awful and preventable death of their loved Shane.

 

 

 

Need to support Cavan and Monaghan Drug Awareness Programme – Brendan Smith TD

 

drugs task force.png

I spoke in Dáil Eireann on the Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion in relation to the need to provide adequate financial support to community based task-forces to deal with the scourge of drugs.

At present the response from Government is totally inadequate.  Confidence must be restored in the national drugs strategy and the partnership approach that has been the hallmark of this strategy over many years must be protected.  I know that An Garda Síochana value the work done through local services.

I highlighted the difficulties facing the Cavan and Monaghan Drug Awareness Programme if adequate financial support is not forthcoming and time for the Minister and Government to  listen to these services who are providing essential and much needed support to persons with addiction difficulties.

Below is an extract from my contribution in Dáil Éireann.  Also below replies to  Parliamentary Questions I tabled on these important issues.

BRENDAN SMITH

Colleagues have said that the scourge of drugs is in every community. At one time we used to think it was only the major urban centres that were afflicted by this scourge. No longer are the problems confined to any particular age group or to persons in any socio-economic sector, they are now causing difficulties in all strata of society. We are all aware of individuals, families and communities that have been devastated by this scourge. The Government’s response at present is a totally inadequate. This was very much highlighted by the intervention of the nine former Ministers of State who each had responsibility for the national drugs strategy. My colleague, Deputy John Curran, did an excellent job when he held that brief. The Government and the Minister must take seriously the concerns of the former Ministers of State. They have outlined very clearly their concern about the lack of engagement with community groups and about the centralisation of decision making. This is the exact opposite of what is needed to provide the necessary supports for person with addiction problems. I have been in contact directly with the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, on the Cavan-Monaghan drug and alcohol service. It had forwarded the Minister of State a very detailed letter outlining that it would have to wind down operations and dissolve the company by the end of 2020. That organisation has provided excellent support to many individuals and families over the past years throughout Cavan and Monaghan. Garda management at senior level very much values the support this organisation has given to individuals, families and communities. I appeal to the Minister of State again, as I have done through correspondence.

While I acknowledge the Minister of State’s prompt reply, we must get a response to the effect that it will get the necessary financial support to continue the good work it has been doing over many decades with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan)

I listened with interest to the comments of the Deputies proposing the motion and welcome the opportunity to have a discussion on this important issue. The use and misuse of drugs is an international issue that needs to be tackled in a co-ordinated way and addressed in a global context. I very much share the view of the UN General Assembly’s special session on drugs in 2016 which stated:

The world drug problem remains a common and shared responsibility that should be addressed in a multilateral setting through effective and increased international co-operation and demands an integrated, multidisciplinary, mutually reinforcing, balanced, scientific evidence-based and comprehensive approach.

Europe’s drug problem is going through a particularly dynamic phase. Analysis by the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction shows that people are using a wider range of substances than in the past. Many are poly-drug users, which increases the risk to their health. Although the use of heroin and other opioids in Europe remains relatively rare, these are the drugs that cause highest rates of fatal overdose in Europe. Europe has also experienced an increase in deaths and other harms from newer types of drugs. Ireland is not immune from these trends with 9% of the population using drugs in the last year.

The national drug strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017 to 2025, adopts a health-led approach to substance misuse. It commits to treating substance misuse and drug addiction as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice matter. Together with the Minister for Health and the Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy, Deputy Catherine Byrne, who is in attendance, I announced recently the introduction a health diversion programme for persons in possession of drugs for personal use. This is a hugely important step in developing this public health approach. I am very pleased that we are delivering on this key commitment in the national drugs strategy. I welcome Deputy Catherine Byrne’s work as Minister of State in spearheading the matter within the Department of Health.

In adopting a health-led approach, it is important that we do not send out the message that drug use is acceptable or normal. It is not and never will be. Already this year, the HSE, through its drugs.ie website, has developed two campaigns aimed at the student population and festival goers. Next year, the Department of Health is providing additional funding of €100,000 to develop a national harm reduction campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with drug use. This will include information about club drugs, festival drug use, newer drugs as well as cannabis.

The national drugs strategy represents a whole-of-Government response to the problem of drug and alcohol use in Ireland. It draws on a range of Government policy frameworks in order to reduce the risk factors for substance misuse. It also commits to addressing the harms of drugs markets and reducing access to drugs for harmful use. My Department has responsibility as the lead agency or partner in a number of actions, including keeping drugs legislation under review as the joint lead agency the Department of Health.

Tackling the sale and supply of drugs is a key priority for the Government and An Garda Síochána. A core focus of the work carried out by An Garda Síochána is aimed at tackling drugs and organised clime. The roll out of the new operating model of An Garda Síochána meets a key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future and will increase the number and visibility of front-line gardaí to combat criminal activity, including tackling drugs. This model is the norm in many other countries and I am confident that it will serve Ireland well by providing a agile, localised and responsive police service nationwide.

The operating model is being introduced at a time of record investment in An Garda Síochána. For 2019, €1.76 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote along with capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. I am pleased to have secured an overall increase of €122 million to increase An Garda Síochána’s budget for 2020 to an unprecedented €1.882 billion in addition to €116 million in capital investment. This investment is supporting the ongoing and sustained recruitment of Garda members and staff. We now have more than 14,200 gardaí nationwide, supported by over 2,800 Garda staff. The organisation is still growing and a programme of accelerated recruitment is ongoing with a view to reaching 15,000 gardaí in an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 by 2021.

Additional resources have enabled An Garda Síochána to continue to assign resources to specialist bureaus. These include the Garda national drugs and organised crime bureau, which leads in tackling all forms of drug trafficking and supply of illicit drugs in Ireland. Collaboration at an inter-agency and international level remain key in tackling this issue. The bureau also works with Garda divisional drugs units nationwide in demand reduction and supply reduction at local level. In addition to the 105 gardaí assigned to the Garda drugs and organised crime bureau as of 30 September 2019, the Garda divisional drug unit membership for the years 2017 to 2019 has been stable. Divisional drug unit staff numbers stood at 236,222 and 232 personnel in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively.

In addition, An Garda Síochána remains committed to tackling the supply of drugs by supporting local communities through preventative and detection initiatives and engagement with local and regional drug and alcohol task forces, the Garda youth diversion programme and projects, the Garda schools programme, joint policing committees and community policing fora. My Department’s budget for Garda youth diversion projects has been steadily increased over the last number of years from €11.3 million in 2015 to €15.3 million this year. This provision includes funding to support the operation of 106 Garda youth diversion projects. These important projects are community-based multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which primarily seek to divert young people who have become involved in crime or anti-social behaviour. Moreover, the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is developing a new youth justice strategy with the assistance of an interdepartmental and inter-agency steering group. The new strategy will address the full range of issues relevant to youth justice, including how best to prevent young people getting involved in criminal activity, including drug dealing. Uniquely across EU member states’ strategies, drug-related intimidation is also a focus of the new strategy in Ireland.

I listened to the passionate contribution of Deputy Cassells and assure him, as I assured Deputy Breathnach earlier, that I agree these are extremely serious issues in local areas and they need to be dealt with. Drug-related intimidation in communities is a very serious issue which involves the targeting of persons who use drugs or their family or friends in relation to a drug debt. An Garda Síochána will continue to take action in relation to drug-related intimidation, particularly where there is a risk of harm or to the life of a person. A drug-related intimidation reporting programme developed by An Garda Síochána and the National Family Support Network has been in place since 2013 to respond to the needs of drug users and family members experiencing drug-related intimidation. An Garda Síochána and the National Family Support Network have concluded separate evaluations of the reporting programme and jointly agreed a number of actions to enhance its effectiveness through training, knowledge-sharing and awareness raising.

I acknowledge the points raised by Deputies, all of which have been taken on board and noted by the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne and me. A number of Deputies raised concerns regarding the need to strengthen legislation relating to children involved in drug crime. I have stated previously that I consider the grooming of children by those who control criminal activity to be an extremely serious matter. I have asked my Department to consider an effective response, which may consist of policy, legislative or operational measures or a combination of all three. The national drugs strategy recognises the importance of supporting the participation of communities in key decision making structures so that their experience and knowledge informs the development of solutions to solve problems related to substance misuse in local areas.

In addition the development of the strategy has involved a wide range of stakeholders and interests working together as working collaboratively, we can deliver on its ambitious goals. My ministerial colleague, Deputy Catherine Byrne, will address the House further on the strategy in the course of the debate. However, I acknowledge the initiative undertaken by Deputy Curran, who has some experience in this regard. I assure Members of the seriousness with which the Government is taking this motion and its content.

 

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For Written Answer on : 05/11/2019
Question Number(s): 562 Question Reference(s): 44689/19
Department: Health
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Health if urgent consideration will be given to a request in relation to the delivery of services by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) email sent 24/10/19 at 16:05

REPLY
The correspondence provided by the Deputy identifies two key issues:

  • Delays in the transfer of funding from the HSE.
  • Communication difficulties between the HSE and the North Eastern Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force.

Officials in my Department have requested a report from the HSE in relation to these issues.

The Deputy is advised that the Department of Health is providing an additional €190,000 over a three year period (2019-2022) for Young People’s Substance Use Support Services in Cavan and Monaghan. This strategic health initiative will improve access to health services for young people whose lives are affected by problematic use alcohol and substance use in the two counties.

I would encourage the organisation referred to by the Deputy to engage with the North Eastern Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force and the HSE as to how it can participate in the Young People’s Substance Use Support Services.

 

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 05/11/2019
Question Number(s): 670 Question Reference(s): 45265/19
Department: Health
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION
To ask the Minister for Health the measures he proposes to implement to restore confidence in the National Drugs Strategy; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the decision making authority is being taken away from the partnership structures of the strategy and being centralised in his Department and the HSE; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that necessary consultation is not taking place with communities; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the strategy at local and regional level is perceived as being undermined; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

Maintaining a partnership approach between statutory, community and voluntary bodies is a core value of the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025.
 
In addition, Action 39 of the strategy is to support and promote community participation in all local, regional and national structures. In line with this, 11 community and voluntary representatives are included on the oversight structures of the strategy, which give leadership and direction to support the implementation of the strategy.

I am the chair of the National Oversight Committee which has a cross-sectoral membership from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors. The Committee meets every three months and held its most recent meeting on 20th September 2019. There is also a standing sub-committee which promotes coordination between national, local and regional levels.
 
Drug and alcohol task forces that play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem in local communities and in ensuring that a coordinated approach is taken across all sectors to address substance misuse based on the identified needs and priorities in their areas. Again, the task forces are made up of community, voluntary and statutory representatives.

The Department of Health provides annual funding of €225,000 to support, develop and facilitate the involvement of communities in the local and national structures for implementing the national drugs strategy. This includes supporting community representatives on Drug and Alcohol Task Forces, organising a national community representatives’ network and participating on the national oversight structures for the national drugs strategy.

The Task Forces oversee an annual budget of €28m from the Department of Health and the HSE. This funding supports over 280 community projects, in local areas and communities throughout the country, to support initiatives to tackle drug and alcohol use and misuse.

Additional funding of €1m has been provided in 2019. This included €480,000 to provide an additional €20,000 for each of the 24 Task Forces, €10,000 of which will be on a permanent recurring basis. It also funds 13 strategic initiatives to respond to emerging trends in substance misuse and to improve access to services for people with complex needs. The funding was allocated following a national consultation with the 24 Task Forces and 9 community healthcare organisations. I am confident the new strategic initiatives will have a positive impact and make a difference to people’s lives as they journey to recovery.

I am committed to working in partnership with statutory, community and voluntary sectors in implementing the national drugs strategy.